What I'm very upset about is the attempt to dictate to museums what they show, and the statements made by politicians in Washington that have curtailed the freedom of the National Endowment for the Arts. The attention to those issues is deflected by the spin of my supposedly having trivialized the Holocaust.
There was an exhibition in Munich in 1937, 'Degenerate Art,' which included work by Klee, Kandinsky, Beckmann and many others. The work was called 'sick' and put in the trash heap. The sentiments expressed toward contemporary art by Jesse Helms, Pat Robertson and Mayor Giuliani recall the language used by the Nazis.
Museums are managers of consciousness. They give us an interpretation of history, of how to view the world and locate ourselves in it. They are, if you want to put it in positive terms, great educational institutions. If you want to put it in negative terms, they are propaganda machines.
Artists and art institutions have to learn how to play hardball. A democratic society needs a democratic art and we have a right to demand it.
A liberal public is interesting to have as an audience. It is for that very reason that corporations make such an effort to ally themselves with cultural institutions.
Museums are not normally presenting the works on the walls as provocations to work. It's more like going to a Jacuzzi.
I have a particular interest in corporations that give themselves a cultural aura and are in other areas suspect. Philip Morris presents itself in New York as the lover of culture while it turns out that if you look behind the scenes, it is also a prime funder of Jesse Helms, someone who is very hostile to the arts.
A standard line, promoted by people like Clement Greenberg, is that politics contaminates art, and Manet is often cited as an example of art for art's sake.
When works of art are presented like rare butterflies on the walls, they're decontextualized. We admire their beauty, and I have nothing against that, per se. But there is more to art than that.